For those want to read what caused it to get to this point:
I have sent the following to the Ashland Humane Society’s e-mail address. I’m not sure if this issue is done or not but to show there is no long term hard feelings on my side I gave them basic instructions on fine tuning their processes and getting into the digital age cheaply:
- First and foremost to end our bickering – have Rascal Unit change the wording on their site to not imply that you can make appointments via e-mail – I don’t suggest you remove your email, but since you are responsible for the text meet the expectations set forth by it or set them accordingly.
That being said here are the approaches I would take – I’ll add the caveat that I will do it for a fee of $50.00 – but I should lay it out for you simply enough that your current IT person should be able it simply enough.
1. Purchase a domain since your previous domain expired you are either going to have purchase a new one or go for legal action over the old one – since your a small non-profit organization I am assuming that you are going to buy a new one and skip legal action I have links in this article I wrote about choosing a domain name to some of the cheapest ones online http://journeytogetpaid.com/2008/02/07/choosing-a-domain-name-can-be-heart-wretching/ you should be be able to get a new domain for 6.95 a year (first year included in that 50.00). I would recommend ashlandhumane.org or ashlandhumane.net since these are both unregistered at this time.
2. Sign up for Google Apps for domains – http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/index.html – this will give you further strengthening of your brand. They do offer an edition for non-profits http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?answer=46576&query=non+profit&topic=&type= what this allows you to do is a few things – the first is simple branding of your organization in the e-mails you send as all your emails can be (username)@ashlandhumane.net or whatever domain name you choose. There are further features though from this service.
* Free E-mail Branded for your organization
* Free Instant Messaging Branded for you organization (I don’t see you using this side of it)
* Free Document sharing – so you won’t have to email everyone when you update a form – they will be able to pull the latest down form the site
* Free Shared Calender – you could move appointments onto here so all of your members could know events and appointments from home the night before – you could even make a public calender that didn’t show details but would inform the internet public when you were overbooked
Once again this service is completely free – there is some settings to configure on your the settings for your DNS server/registrar you performed in step one. The Google Apps help has instructions on how to configure this.
3. Set up a web page – I would personally recommend a blog platform here is why. You currently stated that you update the adoption sites with pictures and information for the pets that you have that need adoption. Use this information an host it on your own blog in conjunction with the adoption sites. This allows people to go to your site and see the latest pets you have up for adoption. I haven’t used your adoption sites but theoretically it should be a copy and paste from those sites to yours. This would take a little training from your staff and a slight web site design (neither included in my 50.00 but I will configure the functionality for your web site whether you go static or blog style). If you go with a static page this is included the Google Apps listed in step 2. If you went with a blog platform I would choose either www.blogger.com or www.wordpress.com to host your site at – both of these are once again completely free.
These three steps would essentially give you the power and tools that most major enterprise environments use that would be yours for the cost of 6.95 a year recurring. Your volunteers would be more mobile – they would be able to check their calenders and be able to be available when time demands it so you wouldn’t have extra volunteers when you didn’t need it, but could possibly have more when you did. For the users that aren’t online you can still communicate with those the same way you do currently – for those that are this will save time compared to phone tree methods and even just doing bulk e-mails. I would also recommend setting up a mailing list so volunteers and the public can subscribe and see the latest news about your organization in a weekly/monthly/quarterly fashion. More information and communication with the public should lead to more adoptions. Desktop calenders can be configured to sync with online calenders so users that have dial-up would be able to update the calender every time they managed to get online.
I may be persuaded to do the work to set this up for you at cost (domain fees and then anything else you may require that does take money) – but I won’t even broach that path until the wording on the Rascal Unit website is changed. I would suggest the following wording:
Contact the Ashland Humane Society at 419 2814722 to make an appointment for this clinic date in this area. Inquiries can be made via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
A small change can go a long way to setting expectations. Maybe you never had an issue before the one is me over this service. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, and why allow it to with small and 99% free changes that would allow you on the technologically front to compete with multinational companies. Running a web site you can link users to partner adoption sites, rascal unit, etc. Communication and awareness is the mantra in this day and ago. While I may be one person it always starts with one. While I could go almost as extreme as your personal surgery example you posted on my site and say slavery and voting rights for minorities and women weren’t changed until one person started the ball – I know that’s asinine. What I will state is a more applicable modern example. Recently in America there as been an increase awareness in organic foods. Granted not all organic foods actually hold a benefit, but as more people are becoming aware of those that do customers are demanding it. Now on your grocer’s shelves you are seeing more and more organic alternatives to the foods you’ve always purchased, more then likely the alternatives are made by the same manufacturer as your own stand by. This change was not mandated but driven by market force. I’m sure it started by one guy saying this food sucks, I want this type and then telling friends. Things like this snowball.
I’ll state that I can come across like an ass. I don’t deny this and though I’m not out for any malice, I’m only blunt and don’t mince words. Whether you ever reply or comment on my blog please take my words to heart. The earlier you change and the faster you change the easier it is as time goes by and you don’t become completely entrenched. I understand that you care about the pets first. If you aren’t working with the customers and giving them the most efficient ways of interacting with you you disenfranchise them. If you don’t at the very least address complaints directly to the users ASAP – this has a direct reflection on you, timeliness in addressing complaints is one of the first steps of customer service. Taking 12 days to acknowledge receiving it to the customer that is complaining is unacceptable. Not taking blame for improperly setting expectations is also unacceptable customer service. You may care about the pets but ANY poor customer service that can drive away possible money being spent at your location, donations, or especially adoptions is even a more disservice to the pets then anyone that could call, e-mail, or write you.
Customer service can be adjusted by modify your current processes. Making the new processes the norm will mean after a short while you won’t understand why you thought they took so much longer that you refused to change sooner. I never said the receptionist was rude, I stated the e-mail issue was poor customer service. The way you have handled this and the time it has taken you has been poor customer for something so small. Admitting that will be the first step to better customer service. I know it’s hard to admit you were wrong. Maybe I should have been quiet, but maybe I’m not alone. Maybe others have had this exact same issue but haven’t spoken up to anyone. How do you or I know that I’m the singular issue in this equation? I doubt if I hadn’t posted this on my blog that you would have ever responded. If it hadn’t been ranked so high in google you would have never responded. This in and of itself states you are aware of the power of technology and it’s effect. While I may just be a vocal singular person, I’m speaking up for that possible other person, or handful or people, that may have had similar issues and complaints that haven’t expressed them so publicly.
I could have gotten a picket sign and marched on public property for hours until this was all changed and addressed. Ironically in the digital age that spending an hour writing e-mails to you and the effect in google have more of an impact on you then having an article about me picketing in front of your organization. I’m aware of this and now so are you. So also is the next person that may have a complaint about your organization. My post gives credence and a sense of community to any you disenfranchise. If you don’t address your issues properly to some extent remember that I have given an easy forum for users to state what complaints they also may have with you. The silent complaints will not stay so silent in the future because of this.
Finally like I said, I’m blunt. I feel I’ve handled this properly and professionally especially since there is more of a public eye on companies and the issues people have with them. If it wouldn’t have been me it would have been the next guy. Not only have I pointed out the issues, I’ve given you a low cost method of addressing where it only requires some learning and effort on your part. I also gave you the option of having the work done for an extremely low fee (find out how much it costs at the local computer store to do an hours worth of labor and realize it may take upwards to 3-4 to get you happy with the setup I laid out for you). I’ve also posted the whole process online, so as you modify your steps and the assurances I hear from you I will post those as well as your failings. I have no reason to pursue a hatred vendetta, I will champion you as much as I denounce you. You run a great organization with what I am sure is great volunteers and people behind it. However your customer service, your customer services processes, and your ability to address issues still all do suck. Addressing these issues can raise the bar across the organization, you can be mediocre or you can be better. The choice is yours.